The Politics of Sanctity: Gerardo of Venice in the Mosaic Programme of San Marco in Venice


The focus of this paper is the mosaic of an eleventh-century bishop and martyr, Gerardo of Venice, commissioned by the Venetian government around 1240 for the state church of San Marco. The mosaic clearly depicts Gerardo as a bishop, although his attributes render him closer to Byzantine rather than Western prototypes, and is nestled within the salvific and Marcian themes of the famous San Marco programme. Despite its standard typology and iconography, the image presents an enigma in the context of Venetian civic patronage. Firstly, San Gerardo is one of only three indigenous holy figures to be celebrated by the Venetian government for his sanctity before c. 1550. Unlike other centres on the Italian peninsula where the promotion of local, near-contemporary saints was the rule especially in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, as a general rule the Venetian government did not support the development of local cults in their city; in fact, by ignoring them, the government effectively quashed the phenomenon in the lagoon. Secondly, although Gerardo was Venetian by birth, he, in fact, spent most of his life in the city of Csanád in Hungary where he was bishop and, most importantly, where he was martyred and buried. Consequently, his cult was not Venetian at all, but Hungarian, rendering the Venetian commission even more curious. The impetus behind Gerardo’s inclusion in the San Marco cycle deserves more consideration than it has been previously been given. This paper thus examines the mosaic in both its hagiographic and art-historical contexts and explores the motivations underlying the Venetian government’s unexpected interest in this unequivocally Hungarian cult.


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The Author:

Dr Karen McCluskey